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Space and PhysicsAstronomy

What Is The Current Population Of Mars?

The Red Planet’s robotic scientists are hard at work.

author

Charlie Haigh

Social Media and Marketing Assistant

clockJun 9 2022, 11:38 UTC
The Peseverance rover, with its six large wheels and camera that looks a bit like a face, facing forward, on a rocky Mars terrain.
Perseverance rover exploring the surface of Mars. Image Credit:Triff/Shutterstock

If you include rovers and landers in your population count, the Red Planet is positively teeming with the pitter-patter of tiny robo wheel. There are currently three rovers, one lander, and a helicopter operating on Mars, each with their own equally important job.

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CURIOSITY

The Curiosity Mars rover with wheels and camera that looks like a head and face at a jaunty angle towards the camera, on rocky Mars terrain
Curiosity takes a selfie on November 12, 2020 at the "Mary Anning" location on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


The oldest of our Mars crew is the Curiosity rover, arriving on August 6, 2012. Despite being given a mission length of just one Martian year (687 Earth days), the rover is putting in some serious overtime almost 10 years later! Curiosity is on the hunt for microbial life using some clever tech, including a laser which it has now learnt to use autonomously.

INSIGHT

The InSight lander when it was shiny and new compared to now with its solar panels covered in Martian dust.
InSight's first ever selfie taken in December 2018 vs its final selfie, covered in dust, sent home on April 24, 2022. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Flying the proverbial flag for the landers is InSight. Landing on November 26, 2018, InSight spends its days looking deep into the crust, core, and mantle of Mars. By tracking tectonic activity, seismology, and temperature, InSight gathers valuable data on how our neighbour planets evolved. However, the Mars population will soon be losing a valuable member, as InSight is preparing to power down having lost the use of its solar panel chargers, and isn't expected to last out the year.

PERSEVERANCE AND INGENUITY

The tiny Mars helicopter flies into view and comes tot rest on the ground, rotors spinning slowly.
The little helicopter that could, showing off it indeed can. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS


On February 18, 2021, Perseverance and its trusty sidekick Ingenuity arrived. With the aim of establishing how sustainable life would be on Mars, the rover tests oxygen production, and looks for signs of past life and subsurface waterbodies in its rocks. Ingenuity, the Marscopter, works alongside Perseverance to test the capabilities of powered flight. But these socialites aren’t alone on their mission, having picked up a trusty pet rock on their travels, this planet of over-achievers has a Martian rock breaking hitchhiking records.

ZHURONG

The shiny gold Zhurong rover, wheels and camera 'head' that frankly looks like the Japanese Hello Kitty cute kitten face, facing forward to the viewer, on Mars.
Zhurong's selfie with its lander, taken in June 2021. Image credit: CNSA


Last on our list is the Zhurong rover, landing May 15, 2021. China’s first successful Mars mission, and the second country ever to successfully land on Mars, the rover is investigating the planet’s geology and surface composition, attempting to establish a natural history of the planet’s environment. Zhurong is currently preparing for the harsh Mars winter by entering into hibernation on May 18 and hopefully avoiding the treacherous dust winds that have already claimed the use of InSight's solar panels.

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As Mars is considered the closest planet to Earth that could potentially support human life, learning everything there is to know about the Red Planet could make interplanetary settlement a real possibility, so keep trucking little robots!


Space and PhysicsAstronomy
  • Mars,

  • Astronomy,

  • Mars rover,

  • Learn with IFLS

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